What's New for 2010
The 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander receives its first major update since a redesign three years ago. On the outside, the Outlander has more aggressive styling than its predecessor; changes include new front and rear fascias, hood, fenders and front mesh grille. Inside, there's a new LCD gauge display, real-time traffic for the navigation system and an available "Fuse" hands-free link system that offers audio streaming and voice commands for MP3 players and cell phones. Mechanical changes include a slight power bump for the V6 engine and an upgraded version of the all-wheel-drive system, which is offered only on the new top-of-the-line GT trim level.
In a competitive market, the best plan of attack is to keep making your product better and better. This is the approach embodied by the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander. The compact crossover has been given a refresh that increases its desirability in a number of areas.
A new nose is the most obvious of the Outlander's revisions. The proboscis was clearly inspired by the Lancer Evolution X, and it gives this Mitsu an aggressive edge that makes it an instant standout in a sea of lookalike crossover SUVs. The cabin has also been spruced up, with refinements that bring a more premium look – XLS and GT models get new chrome trim and an updated gauge cluster, along with new soft-touch materials on the dash top and door panels with stitched accents. Another addition is the high-tech Fuse hands-free link system; this setup allows you to access and play audio files and operate your cell phone via voice commands.
Also updated this year is the Outlander's V6 engine. Standard on the XLS and the new GT trim, it's been revised for a 10-horsepower increase, which doesn't come at the expense of fuel economy. The Outlander GT also has an upgraded version of the all-wheel-drive system that benefits from a new front differential that can vary torque between the front wheels to optimize available traction.
Of course, the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander isn't the only belle at the ball. You'll get better fuel economy from the competent Chevrolet Equinox, more power from the Toyota RAV4 V6 and impressive roominess and refinement from the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester.
Still, it's clear that this Mitsu brings a lot to the table. Steering and handling are sportier and more enjoyable than you'll find in your typical kid-hauler; the Outlander also has a versatile flip-down tailgate, a third-row seat and the previously mentioned AWD and Fuse systems to its credit. This appealing crossover deserves a place on the short list of SUV shoppers who place a premium on fun handling and cutting-edge gadgetry.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander is a compact crossover SUV available in four trim levels: ES, SE, XLS and GT. The entry-level ES is equipped with a four-cylinder engine and comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a six-speaker CD stereo, cruise control, full power accessories and reclining rear seats. An optional Convenience package adds alloy wheels, heated sideview mirrors, roof rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SE bumps the wheel size up to 18 inches and adds remote keyless ignition and entry, fabric sport seats, a six-disc CD changer, turn-signal mirrors, foglights and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The Outlander XLS is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 and comes with all the above-mentioned features plus the Fuse hands-free link system, a third-row seat, automatic climate control, chrome accents in the cabin and voice-activated Bluetooth phone connectivity. The GT includes all these amenities and adds xenon headlights, exterior chrome trim, aluminum pedals, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a premium Rockford Fosgate sound system and satellite radio.
Option packages, depending on the trim level, include the Sun and Sound package, which adds a sunroof and the upgraded audio system with satellite radio. Another is the Navigation package, which includes a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic updates (no subscription required) and digital music storage. A Luxury package provides xenon headlights, leather upholstery, front seat heaters and a power driver seat. A rear-seat entertainment system is a stand-alone option.
Powertrains and Performance
The Outlander ES and SE are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 168 hp and 167 pound-feet of torque. The XLS and GT have a 3.0-liter V6 good for 230 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque. Four-cylinder Outlanders come standard with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), while the V6-powered XLS and GT use a traditional six-speed automatic. Both have manual-shift capability.
All Outlander trims are available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The AWD system offers an unusual amount of flexibility for this class. ES, SE and XLS models allow you to toggle among 2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock. With 2WD, power goes only to the front wheels to save fuel. With "4WD Auto," some power is always routed to the rear wheels – up to 40 percent of available torque under full-throttle acceleration. Choose "4WD Lock" and the system sends a greater percentage of torque to the rear wheels -- up to 60 percent when needed, making it ideal when driving in especially slippery conditions, such as on ice and snow. Note that the "Lock" part of the setting is a bit misleading, as that term typically indicates a fixed 50/50 split between the front and rear wheels.
The GT's all-wheel-drive system features an improved front differential and allows the driver to use a "Tarmac, Snow or Lock" selector knob to switch among modes, thus allowing for optimized traction on different road surfaces.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2WD 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander are 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with the four-cylinder engine, and 19/25/21 mpg with the V6. The AWD four-cylinder gets 21/25/22 mpg, while the AWD V6 gets 18/24/20 mpg.
All major safety features are standard on the Outlander, including antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Whiplash-reducing front head restraints are also standard.
In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal offset and side-impact crash tests, the Outlander earned the top rating of "Good." In government crash tests, the Outlander earned an equally impressive five-star rating for frontal and side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Enter the Outlander's cabin and you'll find attractive design, though there are some subpar plastics in evidence. XLS and GT models fare the best – they feature a soft-touch upper instrument panel and door trim with eye-catching double-stitch accents. While the steering wheel is tilt-adjustable, it doesn't telescope, which may be an issue for some taller drivers. Comparable to Ford's Sync, the Outlander's new Fuse system allows you to make phone calls and access your iPod via voice commands, and it is relatively intuitive to use.
While the third-row seat that comes with XLS and GT models will suffice in a pinch, it's too flimsy and small for regular use. Also, its seat bottom is not very supportive, and the seatback is located uncomfortably close to the tailgate. On the plus side, the Outlander offers a unique flip-down tailgate capable of supporting up to 440 pounds. With the second- and third-row seats folded, total cargo space measures nearly 73 cubic feet.
Get behind the wheel of the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander and it quickly becomes clear that crossover SUVs can indeed be fun to drive. The steering is pleasantly weighted and the chassis is superbly tuned; it all comes together to produce a driving experience that's a cut above that of your typical crossover.
The car's all-wheel-drive system holds the car firm on unstable surfaces like sand and snow. While not as peppy as the RAV4's V6, the Outlander's 3.0-liter V6 offers brisk acceleration, and shifts from the six-speed automatic are smooth and fluid. Overall, the Outlander delivers a sporty drive without sacrificing agreeable ride quality.
Read our Mitsubishi Outlander Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test